It wasn't so long ago that Nissan's Navara was talked about in same hushed tones as Toyota's HiLux; it was right up there with the king of the utes. But when the D23 version launched in 2015, the wheels fell off for one of Australia's favourite pick-ups.
Designed around the notion that more dual-cab 4x4s were being used in car parks than national parks, the first iteration of the new Navara was largely shunned by buyers. Buyers weren't convinced; its softly-sprung handling was average at best.
With further tweaks to its suspension set-up, this is the third attempt by Nissan to serve up a Navara that worthy of challenging both Toyota and Ford's current dominance in the dual-cab/pick-up market.
The ST is the second from the top in the range, and we put it through its paces off- and on road to see how it rates as an adventure tourer.
The standard 16-inch alloy rims are shod with more highway-oriented all-terrain tyres, detracting from the Navara's macho visage. (image credit: Tim Robson)
The ST comes standard with running boards, while its 16-inch alloy rims are shod with more highway-oriented all-terrain tyres, which do detract from the macho visage of the Navara.
Interior design-wise, it’s certainly not plain Jane inside the Navara. The designers have given some thought to adding curves and subtlety to what is still a quite workmanlike space. As you'd expect from a working vehicle, hardened plastic still dominates the cabin, and unfortunately extends to points under the driver's elbow on the windowsill.
Having said that, the door handle offers soft points for extremities, and the centre console lid bin is padded, as well. The silver trim is satin, which is good for preventing glare from shining back into the driver’s face.
How practical is the space inside?
The Navara presents well as a daily proposition, although it still always will suffer from the same inherent disadvantages when it comes to a dual cab ute; an unsecured load area.
The seating is great. The front seats are supportive and even though they’re mounted a touch high and are only manually adjustable for height on the rear of the seat base, they’re still comfortable over a long journey. Nissan has missed a trick by failing to fit map pockets to the backs of the front pews, though, which is a surprising omission.
Up front the centre console bin is a little bit on the small side, and hides an additional 12 volt charger in its base, which complements the 12 volt charger in a dash-top tray and a USB charger in the base of the centre console.
The tub measures 1503mm long and 1560mm wide when measured along the floor, with a 1130mm width between the wheel arches. (image credit: Tim Robson)
Storage around the cabin is basic but plentiful enough, with two cup holders in the centre console, room for large bottles on each of the four doors, and two more cup holders in the rear centre armrest. Speaking of the rear, there are ISOFIX mounts on the outside points and vents for rear seat passengers, but no USB charging points. The second row suffers from a high-mounted seat base, restricting headroom for taller rear-seat passengers.
There's a wide flat, a wide shallow tray that will fit even the largest phones, but it feels like the interior of the Navara could do with a larger bin or an additional oddments area. It just feels a little bit lacking when it comes to stashing day-to-day detritus.
The tub measures 1503mm long and 1560mm wide when measured along the floor, with a 1130mm width between the wheel arches. And as with all dual-cab trays, it is compromised for length. It's impossible to fit, for example, a regular mountain bike in length ways any more; it's always a matter of putting it on the angle. The alloy sport bar doesn't particularly get in the way when loading up, which is handy.
And, as with all dual-cab utes, there's a spare wheel lashed under the rear end of the tub.
Does it represent good value for the price? What features does it come with?
For $40,190 before on-roads, the Navara ST offers an interesting mix of conveniences and practicalities, although there are a few odd ommissions. For example, the ST is equipped with automatic LED headlights and LED daylight running lamps, but misses out on automatic wipers.
It offers single-zone climate control, a unique powered sliding hatch in the rear glass, heavy-duty cloth seats, a nicely wrapped steering wheel and auto-shifter, and additional satin trim around the interior.
The rear window provides easy access to the tray from inside the cabin. (image credit: Tim Robson)
Nissan has set the Navara up with practicality in mind, adding items such as solid metal tie-down points in the rear tray, as well as a 12-volt charger – but there's no tub liner.
There's also a decently wide step, as well as a unique rear tailgate topper that's wide enough to handle a cup of coffee.
What are the key stats for the engine and transmission?
Nissan's YS23-DDTT 2.3-litre twin-turbo four-cylinder diesel makes 140kW of power and 450Nm of torque from 1500rpm. You're never not going to mistake it for an oil-burner; the little motor works hard off the line and makes its presence known in the cabin, but once at a cruising speed, it settles down nicely.
The Jatco seven-speed automatic, as used in the Y62 Patrol, works very well plugging around town as well as on the open road, teaming up well with the torquey 2.3-litre to find the right ratio at the right time.
It can be overridden and used in manual mode, too, and the ST comes equipped with a low-range switch. This allows you to engage four-wheel-drive low-range on the fly if you really want to get the wheels dirty on the Navara.
How much fuel does it consume?
Against a claim of 7.0L/100km on the combined fuel economy cycle, we logged a figure of 7.9L/100km over 240km of testing, with about 20km of rolling gravel roads included.
With an 80-litre tank, expect to travel about 1000km on a single fill.
What's it like as a daily driver?
Truth be told, the vast majority of dual-cab pick-ups that re sold these days seldom find their way into dirt deeper than the netball ground’s car park. With this in mind, Nissan took the Navara down a more road-friendly route when it devised the car, fitting it with coil suspension at all four corners instead of heavy-duty, stiffer leaf springs for the rear.
This strategy didn't pay off for the brand straight out of the box, with the initial suspension tune of the car deemed to be too soft and imprecise for Australian tastes.
A second version was released in 2017, but Nissan went one step further with this particular version, adding quicker steering, revised bushings and dual-rate rear coil springs to tidy up the Navara's handling overall.
Looking at it compared to its key rivals, it offers more space in the cabin for passengers than the HiLux and the Triton, but isn’t as spacious as the Amarok. (image credit: Tim Robson)
And these changes have finally made it into the ute that it should have launched in 2015. Around town it rides very well even in an empty state, which is by default the mode that exposes the foibles of dual-cab utes.
The steering responds well underhand, it tracks straight and true when braking firmly and the body resists roll at both low and high speeds. Even though Mrs Robbo proclaimed "God, that's a huge car," when first presented with the Navara, it actually proved to be quite simple to use on a day-to-day basis, even when parking.
We missed, however, rear parking sensors and the rear view camera is only a very basic item, but it does the job of preventing minor bingles. The bluff nose does present issues, particularly with shorter drivers, but again it’s just a matter of getting used to it.
Accessing the Navara is easy front and rear, especially with the running boards, and the controls are what you'd find in a regular passenger car, offering no complications or distractions for day-to-day use.
Looking at it compared to its key rivals, it offers more space in the cabin for passengers than the HiLux and the Triton, but isn’t as spacious as the Amarok – although with full-length curtain airbags, it is safer than the German.
Noise levels inside the cabin are acceptably low for a dual cab ute, too. As a rule, they are intrinsically more noisy thanks to larger, stiffer, mixed-terrain tyres, while the basic construction of the car is not as soundproof as your typical sedan, but the Navara does a good job. At a highway cruiser, it's quiet and comfortable to travel in.
What's it like for touring?
The Navara has a reputation as a pretty tough truck, and its 228mm of ground clearance, a worthy lateral tilt angle figure of up to 50 degrees, 32.4-degree approach, 26.7-degree departure and 23.8-degree ramp-over angles, along with a wading depth of 700mm, still gives it some off-road teeth.
The rear coil springs, combined with a more-road going tyre spec, aren’t conducive to finding rear-end traction on really loose terrain, though, especially when the Navara is unladen. If you’re too light with the throttle, the traction control won’t kick in quickly enough, which can leave you scrabbling for forward momentum.
If you were thinking of going out bush more often, it would definitely be worth considering a set of more off-road orientated rubber to get the best out of the Navara. And if you are heading out of town, chances are you’ll have a couple of hundred kilograms of gear with you to weight the tray down with anyway, which will also help.
The low- and high-range 4x4 set-up is easy to use and presented us with no problems on the trail. There is no hill descent assist or anything of the sort, though, but the seven-speed auto has a manual override function that holds its gears well.
The dual-turbo engine can feel a little thrashy when pulling away from rests and jumping up in the revs, but it proves to be a tractable and torquey motor right across the rev range.
The Navara weighs in at 1960kg in auto form, with a gross vehicle mass figure of 2910kg at the curb, and has a gross combined mass of 5910kg. (image credit: Tim Robson)
Nissan claims a 3500kg braked trailer towing capacity, leaving you with 450kg of payload (which needs to account for passengers as well as gear) left over at the maximum. It offers a maximum down ball rating of 300kg, again depending on how much load you’re carrying.
Again, these are numbers that are par for the course across the class, and it pays to be aware of the vehicle’s gross combined vehicle mass (GVM) when it comes to adding cargo.
The Navara weighs in at 1960kg in auto form, with a gross vehicle mass figure of 2910kg at the curb, and has a gross combined mass of 5910kg. If you’re not towing anything, the tray can carry a maximum of 941kg.
What safety equipment is fitted? What safety rating?
While the Navara comes with a five star ANCAP maximum safety rating, it does – like a handful of its rivals – miss out on modern driver aids, such as AEB.
Service intervals are set at 12 months or 20,000km, while a capped price servicing program is offered for the first six scheduled services up to 120,000km, with costs varying between $547and $738 per service.
It's taken a couple of attempts, but Nissan has finally built the truck it's always intended to build, when it released the Navara D23 back in 2015. Its main point of difference is the fact that it rides on more comfortable coil suspension – and now that that suspension actually works, the Navara rises towards the top of the heap when it comes to around-town stability and comfort in the 4x4 dual cab segment.
We'd like to see more safety driver aids, but the Navara is a practical and comfortable vehicle for both work and play.
Do you rate the Navara? Tell us what you think in the comments section below.